Experience counts. The only problem is that, as a consumer of medical care, it is almost impossible to find out if your doctor has a good success record with the surgery he or she is proposing for you. That problem may be getting closer to an answer.
Last week, a federal judge in Washington, D.C., ruled in favor of a consumer group that sued the Health and Human Services Department to allow disclosure of specific data about doctors from the Medicare claims database. US District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan concluded that releasing the data would be ‘a significant public benefit,’ and ordered the department to turn it over by Sept. 21.
The Medicare database has information on more than 40 million patients and 700,000 doctors. Those files could reveal far more than how many times a year a surgeon performs a hip replacement operation. The data could also be analyzed to determine how a doctor makes crucial decisions on tests and procedures that determine both quality and costs. They would show which doctors fail to order prudent preventive tests.
“These data will make it possible to develop measures that will be very helpful to consumers,” said Robert Krughoff, president of Consumers’ Checkbook, the nonprofit group that sued for the information.
Read the LA Times article here (requires free registration).